Thinking about the future is a very abstract concept. Why should we spend our time thinking about something that we can’t control? Or plan for things that might not occur? In other words, why should we think about designing our futures?
If we don’t design it ourselves, someone else will design it for us.
When we say someone else, who do we mean? It could be big corporations, the government or global industries. If we do not think about the movements of large and influential institutions that are making decisions on our behalf, then we are missing out on huge opportunities.
When we say thinking about the future, what does that mean? Thinking about the future is not about trying to control or plan for exact actions. That is not possible. What is possible is exploring different possibilities that result in creating new systems and cultural shifts.
When Echos CEO and Co-founder Ricardo Ruffo facilitates our Designing Desirable Futures experience, he asks this question,” What have you done in the last five years to be here right now in this moment? Could you predict this moment or not?”
The answer is very similar each time, 75% of the people in the room say no and 25% say yes, maybe. It is not possible to predict exactly where we are going to be in 5 years’ time, but it is possible to know what your intentions are for the future. Understanding what drives us on a personal or professional level helps to guide us in the right direction each time we are required to make a decision.
The Practical Steps Forward
It is important to think about the future not as a theoretical exercise, rather as a set of practical steps someone makes each day.
To understand how this works in practice Ricardo often shares a story from his own life, “I never thought I would be in Australia 10 years ago. However, I did have an intention of Echos becoming a global organisation. I had a mission of moving beyond what we were doing in Brazil and seeing how we could grow into the global scene.”
“My preferred future was achieved not by knowing exactly where and when global traction would occur. I instead created a vision and a purpose to allow myself to see how I could expand beyond my current reality. And so when those opportunities came we allowed Echos to grow into the global organisation it is today.”
The steps that we take today is what creates our future. Keep your intentions focused and the path forward will eventually become clear.
“What I learned all those years ago, is that you must expect the unexpected. Live your life based on following your interests and curiosity and forget about what is normal for you. Don’t live your life looking for answers, there are no right answers. But there are lessons if you open yourself up to learn about the world, yourself and extend what is possible beyond your immediate reality,” says Ricardo Ruffo, CEO and Co-Founder of Echos.
Finding Inspiration From Futurists
When designing a new future for your organisation or on a personal level, it can feel daunting, where do we begin? It is important to take inspiration from people who have devoted their lives to developing frameworks and systems for designing possible futures.
Here are some great thinkers who are working on designing systems that benefit humanity:
Genevieve Bell is an Australian who left Silicon Valley, now working in Canberra at ANU. She is a cultural anthropologist, technologist and futurist best known for her work at the intersection of cultural practice and technology development. Genevieve established the 3A Institute (3Ai) in September 2017 at the ANU in collaboration with CSIRO’s Data61 with the mission of ethically managing the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on humanity through better design and management of technology.
Amy Webby is an American working at the forefront of strategic foresight, a discipline organisations use to gather and process information about their future business environment. Amy has developed many of the commonly used frameworks and models that help organisations look at current trends to understand how they might play out in the future. She is also very interested in ensuring the future of AI does not rest solely in the hands of a few tech giants. She believes AI can be a force for good, if used well.
Jeremy Rifkin is a future focused writer and thinker. He wrote a book called the Zero Marginal Cost Society where he explores the possibilities of how we can recreate societies that operate with more equality. Rifkin believes in the future the Internet of Things, “free” energy, and what he calls “the collaborative commons” will make anything and everything available for practically nothing. Together, he says, those developments will replace capitalism as the world’s economic model.
It is also important to look at the trends of the past to help us to understand our possible futures. Yuval Harari is a historian who has explored how humanity may continue to evolve in his book Homo Deus. He speculates that unless we start more intentionally and strategically planning our futures, we may continuously repeat the mistakes of the past.
Each of these great thinkers are not planning the future. Rather they are exploring and projecting possible futures. They are not telling us what will happen, rather what is possible. If we become aligned with our desires and wishes for the future it will open up what is possible. And this will help to guide us through the murky unknowns before us.
The time to start thinking about the future is now. Join us in imagining what is possible at our next Designing Desirable Futures experience. The time to explore is now.
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